The 45 general constituencies of the Legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir will be up for grabs on Sunday, when voters head to the polls after five years.
All three major political parties of Pakistan — the ruling PTI, PPP and PML-N – are in the fray. The last time AJK held a general election was in 2016, when the then-center-ruling PML-N formed government.
Who will win this time? While the final results will be announced on Sunday, political commentators and experts are keeping a close eye on these five hotly-contested constituencies:
Contestants: PTI’s Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary vs PML-N’s Chaudhary Muhammad Saeed
Background: In 2016 Saeed defeated Chaudhry from this constituency with just 3,000 votes. But later Saeed was declared ineligible by a court and by-elections had to be held. In the by-polls, Chaudhry won and was elected member of the legislative assembly.
On Sunday, the two arch-rivals — Saeed and Chaudhry — will face off again.
Problems of the constituency: Construction of Rathoa Haryam Bridge in Mirpur, clean drinking water and load shedding.
LA 7 Bhimber
Contestants: PTI’s Chaudhary Anwar ul Haq vs PML-N’s Chaudhary Tariq Farooq
Background: Former speaker, Anwar ul Haq, who recently joined PTI is up against senior minister Tariq Farooq, who has emerged successful from this constituency thrice. In 2016, Farooq trounced Haq with over 2,000 votes. At that time Haq was an independent candidate.
Problems of the constituency: Unemployment, clean drinking water, no gas, no proper health facility.
LA 10 Kotli
Contestants: PPP’s Muhammad Yasin vs Muslim Conference’s Farooq Sikandar vs PTI’s Malik Muhammad Yousaf
Background: This is a city constituency, where former senior minister and leader of opposition Muhammad Yasin is contesting for the first time. He is also a candidate from his home constituency. His main rival is former prime minister and president Farooq Sikander Hayat’s son, Farooq Sikandar, who was elected as MNA from this constituency in 2016 on a PMLN ticket.
Meanwhile, Yousaf has previously contested on a PMLN ticket twice and has now switched to PTI.
Problems of the constituency: Clean drinking water, no proper sewerage system, unemployment
LA 14 Bagh
Contestants: Former prime minister and head of the Muslim Conference’s Sardar Ateeq Ahmed Khan, vs PTI’s Major Lateef Khaleeq
Background: Khaleeq was previously in the Jamaat-e-Islami. This constituency is considered a winning constituency for the Muslim Conference, as in 2016, Ahmed Khan won with over 30,000 votes while Khaleeq came in third.
Problems of the constituency: The biggest problem is water, since the constituency is in a mountainous area, there are no natural springs. More than 100 schools are running without proper structures, and the roads are in poor condition.
LA 15 Bagh
Contestants: PTI’s Tanveer Ilyas vs PML-N’s Mushtaq Minhas vs Muslim Conference’s Raja Yaseen
Background: Ilyas is contesting for the first time, but he is backed by a powerful and notable group of the PTI. He is also being named as a possible candidate for prime minister of AJK. Another advantage to Ilyas has been the resignation of JI’s Abdul Rashid Turabi in favor of Ilyas.
Minhas is a former journalist and Yaseen was previously a senior minister in the assembly.
Problems of the constituency: Roads are dilapidated, load shedding, lack of education and health facilities, unemployment